Living Wills And Advance Medical Directives
Each of us has a constitutional right to make our own medical treatment decisions within the bounds of the law and understanding that the government also has an interest in some decisions which effect preserving life, safeguarding the integrity of the medical profession, preventing suicide, and protecting innocent third parties. Within these limitations, individuals have choices about their medical care through the process of informed consent.
Living wills are documents that give instructions on the kind of treatment you would like to receive if you were to become terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state and are unable to communicate your own instructions.
Medical directives are documents that provide guidance to your loved ones as to what types of treatment you would want in the event you are unable to communicate your own decision.
Both of these types of documents must be put into place while you are able to understand, reason and make judgments; thereafter, if you become unable to make such decisions due to physical or mental incapacity, a health care representative appointed by you in writing (or, if no one has been appointed, a representative appointed according to the law), will be asked to make treatment decisions on your behalf.
These decisions will be made following your expressed wishes, if you have made them known in your living will and/or medical directive, or by using your representative’s best judgment in relation to what he or she believes your wishes to be if you have not completed such documents.. If your representative does not know what your wishes are, your representative must decide in good faith what would be in your best interests under the circumstances, considering:
- Relief from suffering
- Whether functioning will be preserved or restored, and
- The quality and extent of sustained life